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“The first three months were hell,” Angela Isaks jokes, as she remembers her monumental career change.

The former teacher from Upington in the Northern Cape had become so used to being surrounded by hundreds of children all day, the move to the Augrabies Falls National Park came as a shock to the system.

But she stuck it out and 17 years later Angela is the manager of the Namaqua National Park and the only woman heading up one of the five parks in the arid region.

Namaqualand is famous for its flowers that burst into a riot of colour each spring and the 158 000 hectare park is home to some 3,500 plant species found nowhere else on Earth.

The 53-year-old remembers how the death of her dad, when she was just 12 years old, shaped her family.

“My mother now took the position of a father figure that was not there,” she explains.

She remembers this a tough time, with her mother taking no nonsense from her children – something she has come to appreciate in retrospect.

“When I grew up later I thought to myself: I take my hat off to her,” she says.

Angela had been in teaching for 17 years before she applied for her first position as people and conservation manager at Augrabies in 2004.

She says her field was dominated by men, but she was determined to prove herself as an effective park manager.

“To me it’s about making yourself count in the position you are in – not because you are male or female,” she says.

Two years after landing the position of Namaqua National Park Manager, she has established herself and is well-respected among her male colleagues.

“My male colleagues came to me saying that they were scared regarding how they would deal with me or my issues. They just realised that I’m just another manager.”

The first woman of colour to hold the position, Angela says that it is working with the community that she loves the most.

“I’m a sucker for making a difference. For me it is an honour to be in the position that I am.”